The Eviction Moratorium is Extended. What Now? (Video recorded August 16, 2021. Information subject to change without notice.)

If the ever-changing rules on eviction have you dazed and confused, you’re in great company. And that may be exactly how the government wants it.

It’s not easy being a landlord these days, and the City of Philadelphia certainly isn’t helping. So let’s review what we know. And remember that information often changes daily, so keep checking the Hapco Philadelphia website for regular updates.

First, let’s look at where we are. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extended the national eviction moratorium, which was supposed to end on July 31st. As we now approach September, it should be over. The Biden Administration previously said it had no authority to extend the moratorium, and the U.S. Supreme Court, while upholding it, only did so with the understanding that it would not be extended beyond July 31st. But alas, the CDC extended it anyway, and here we are. Back to court it went, and the same federal judge who earlier ruled the moratorium unconstitutional is now keeping it alive because of the Supreme Court’s earlier decision. Yes, this will go back to the U.S. Supreme Court, and yes, it will likely be struck down. But when? “It’s going to work its way to the Supreme Court. The only question we have right now is how long that is going to take. Do I think it will get overturned? Yes. Do I know when? No,” said Paul Cohen, Hapco Philadelphia’s attorney. In the meantime, as the extension runs until October 3rd, the clock continues to tick and landlords continue to be held hostage.

If you’re owed money and you haven’t received emergency rental assistance from the city, what should you do?  For starters, we suggest you watch Hapco Philadelphia’s Town Hall virtual meeting with attorneys Paul Cohen and Kenneth Baritz, recorded August 16th. (See below.) But here are some highlights:

  • If you rent a so-called “covered property”, which is a HCV property or is mortgaged through Fanny Mae or Freddie Mac, you must still give a Notice to Quit before filing an action to evict, under the CARES Act.
  • You can still file an eviction complaint, go to court, and get a judgment against the tenant, but you can’t lock the tenant out during the CDC order. Still, the best advice is to start the process immediately.
  • The City of Philadelphia’s Emergency Housing Protections Act requires that before a landlord file an eviction case, tenants must be notified of their rights. The landlord must also file for rental assistance, then wait 45 days before filing an eviction complaint. The problem is that funds for rental assistance are about to run out. As of Mid-August, there were more than 47,000 applications for assistance, with about 10,000 approved and funded. Thousands more are still under review. And the $135 million pot is expected to run dry in September, leaving many qualifying landlords empty-handed unless new money is appropriated.  Still, landlords must apply before filing an eviction case, even with the money soon gone. “Why? Because (the government) wants to put (evictions) off as long as they can,” Cohen says. The city also recently ordered that if a rental assistance application is “completed”, a tenant cannot be evicted. But it’s unclear if applications under review are considered “completed”.  And it doesn’t make much sense to apply and wait for money that you won’t get. But for now, that’s the law.
  • If a Writ of Possession was served prior to May 1, 2021, you must notify the landlord-tenant officer and pay another $45 for the Writ of Possession to be re-served. Then you can proceed with the alias writ. But remember, this remains on hold while the CDC’s eviction moratorium is in place or a “completed” rental assistance application is pending. “The court is taking the position that these people need to be re-notified that they’re about to get locked out. That’s bizarre, but that’s what it is,” says Attorney Kenneth Baritz. “Every single thing that they’re doing, they’ve tried to make it as confusing or anything but succinct so that we would understand what it is. And I believe all of this is intentional. They want to muddy the waters so we don’t know which way is up.

They’re certainly doing that.  To learn more, watch the full Town Hall meeting below.